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Saturday, May 10, 2008

I had this text message from Big Sis last night:

"I have just been chatting to James Blunt at the after show party... I had a guest free ticket to see him! Didn't think much of him but I spoke to his pianist for over an hour and he was planning to come to my birthday party tomorrow until he realised it clashed with a dinner appointment with Elton John. Perth is just the place to be at the moment!"

Clearly the first S in SMS means nothing to her. And you can almost hear the resounding clang of those names being dropped. But that aside, it's just another day in the life of my sister. Personally I'm not phased. I deal with Elton John on a weekly basis. That's the Elton John Ward at the Royal Sussex County Hospital, but even so. It's not everyone who can say they make a living supplying drugs to Elton John.

Celebrating Linda SmithAs it happens, Big Sis's message arrived at 6:03pm UK time, which was a bit of a problem as Lisa and I were busy Celebrating Linda Smith at the Sallis Benney Theatre. It's not easy fumbling for your mobile while everyone else is applauding a dead comedienne's widower.

I always loved Linda Smith. There aren't many people who would go on 'Have I Got News For You' wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Zippy from Rainbow. And even fewer who can claim to have beaten Stephen Fry to the title of Wittiest Living Person. So I was naturally keen to celebrate her life. Even if it did mean leaving work early.

The show turned out to be very good. Instead of a warm-up act, the producers chose to provide us with leaflets featuring tips on spotting the early signs of ovarian cancer, which seemed an odd decision. It can't be easy getting laughs from an audience who've just been reading about bowel habits and vaginal bleeding. But it's a testament to the skill of the performers that they succeeded.

The whole thing was presented and narrated by Warren Lakin, Linda's partner of 23 years, and featured Kate Rutter and Mike McCarthy performing some of Linda's stand-up routines, and recreating her radio performances.

Lovely JubblyThere was also an appearance by Gwyneth Strong, who played Cassandra in 'Only Fools and Horses'. She came out twice to read a couple of Linda's monologues, before disappearing off the stage at a startling speed. I think she must have had a train to catch. But the surprising highlight was "living legend" Carol Grimes (no, I've never heard of her either), a singer who came on to perform some of Linda's favourite songs. She looked a bit like wee Jimmy Krankie crossed with The Joker, although she'd hurt her ankle, so she walked more like The Penguin. But the six songs she performed were remarkably good, thanks in no small part to the contribution of Dorian Ford on the jazz piano. Oh yes, Big Sis isn't the only one who can spend an hour with a famous pianist. According to his website, Dorian used to be in 'Grange Hill', and has composed music for 'Tonight With Trevor McDonald', which is quite a claim to fame. If there's one show renowned for its memorable tunes, it's Tonight With Trevor McDonald. I can't stop humming the theme tune.